Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For the nerd who has everything

NCC-1701 Pizza Cutter

Someone, I won't say who, told me recently that he reads everything of mine except the Star Trek posts.

I mean really! Young people these days!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Because it's Friday

and I seem to be in a black eye-liner sort of mood.

Here's another good one...

Man! that's some BIG hair!


Found the cake...

I've found the cake.

And there's a whole universe of (frankly gorgeous!) Goth wedding dresses out there. (In fact, I think there are wedding planners that specialise.)

Now, can someone please propose to me, so I can start getting my plans together for the perfect Addams Family wedding?

Luuu-Huuuuve this one!

Or, come to think of it, I could just start planning a Hallow'een party...



The EU, a pack of busybody, and extremely silly old ladies, bustling about telling everyone else what to do. They're like the little old ladies who have notions about how the world ought to be run, to save the precious dolphins because they're just so cute, but who have, for reasons inexplicable, been given the power to make everyone else implement their silly witterings.

Why is fish expensive?

Why is it expensive even if you live within a stone's throw of the sea?

Well, this is one of the reasons: EU fishing quotas policy results in fishermen dumping 90 per cent of their catch back into the sea. Yep. It's the rules, you see, because of errm...well, overfishing. Fishermen aren't allowed, under EU regulations, to sell all the fish they catch. But the fish don't know not to get caught in the nets that are only meant to catch the sort of fish the EU allows to be sold. This results in millions of pounds of the "wrong sort" of dead fish being thrown overboard every season, and it is close to bankrupting the British fishing industry.

Now, instead of addressing the problem, their ridiculous fishing quotas, the Eurocrats say they're going to "ban" the practice of dead fish dumping. Because, everyone knows, it's all the fishermen's fault.

It reminds me of the absurdities of the Canadian government saddling the Newfie fishermen with heavy quotas on cod fisheries. But the Newfs weren't the problem. It was the Spanish and Portuguese industry trawlers that came over the Atlantic and sat just outside (or as often as not inside) the 200 mile limit and fished the cod out. But of course, the Canadians were much too nice to do anything about that. We're so desperately proud of our unarmed coast guard and it's just so much easier to destroy the Newfoundland fisheries. After all, the guys out there in the little dories don't shoot back.

Hey, I've got an idea, let's dump the damned EU overboard, every man jack of 'em, and let 'em swim to shore.



Sometimes, life in a foreign country can create labyrinthine difficulties for what would be the simplest procedures elsewhere.

Does anyone know the Italian for "sewing patterns" or "dress patterns"?

I am still more or less housebound, and am going out of my mind with boredom and I thought sewing might be a good time-filler that wouldn't be too physically strenuous. I need some new dresses for the summer and there's nothing in the shops that I can fit into. (Italian shopkeepers regard anything over a size 8 as XXL. It is flatly impossible to buy tights or stockings here that will make it up as far as my waist.)

The trouble is, that no matter how much news, political, medicine, cancer and reastaurant-related Italian I learn, none of it will be any use in a sewing shop.

I once was given the task for the parish of going to a sewing shop and obtaining iron-on pellon. I went to the shop and realised I was utterly at a loss. I spent 20 minutes in that tiny shop looking desperately around, unable to articulate to the shop people what I wanted, before I stumbled upon a packet of fusible interfacing, which more or less served.

Very specialised Italian is a bit of a problem for which dictionaries are useless. And I noticed that, as with most Italian shops, they don't mix the categories in the sewing world.

There's no such thing as "convenience shopping" in this country, and the boundaries between the types of things sold in different sorts of shops are very strictly maintained. It took me ages to figure out that although larger supermarkets will often sell barbeque briquettes and even the white firestarter stuff, they under no circumstances will sell you matches. Matches are sold only at tabacchi.

If you want to buy magazines, go to a newsagent. If you want to buy a packet of crisps and a soda, go to a grocery shop. If you want to buy shampoo and cosmetics, go to a profumeria. If you want to buy bandaids and mercurochrome, or fill a prescription, you have to to to a farmacia. The idea of combining these totally and rigidly separated categories of things into one shop and calling it a "drug store" or a "chemist" as we do in N. America and Britain, would be completely unfathomable to them. So, shopping involves a bit of skill in guessing, from what you know of the Italian mind, what sort of shop would sell the thing you want.

In addition, many of the shops you go to are the old fashioned kind, where the things you need are behind the counter and you have to ask the shop person to give you what you want. I'm sure this has to do with the Italian people-orientation. Italians, no doubt, consider our sort of shopping, where you just roam freely around the shop picking things up as you find them, intolerably impersonal and cold. Where's the human element? I can hear them saying. Well, yes, and I appreciate very much the lovely old-fashionedness of the ladies shops where you go up to the counter and ask the ladies there for your underthings. But it falls down as a system for us ferners when we get in there and realise there is simply NO WAY to describe the thing we want.

I went to that sewing shop in the Jewish section, which we would refer to as a "notions" shop, that sold all sorts of wonderful gadget-y sewing things (men, picture a 19th century hardware/fishing supply store and you will get an idea of the heart's little skip of delight and fascination involved for girls) and realised that neither they nor the fabric shop I had just been to sold dress patterns.

Now, I'm not such a clod that I can't draft my own patterns and come up with the clothes I want, but it does eliminate a step or two if you can start with a basic dress pattern in one's own size. But I have no idea where to get one, what Italian category of shop they might fall under.

For heaven's sake! If not fabric or notions, then what? What?!.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'll let St. Philip get today's last word

From the Daily Philip:

"Let us strive after purity of heart, for the Holy Spirit dwells in candid and simple minds."


Repost: 23 Things I Don't Care About

This is from a few years ago, when a fellow-blogger put up a meme asking people to tell everyone 30 "things that don't bother you".

I like memes. It's like Sharing, only less socially awkward. A few months ago, I was having a chat with Paul Tuns, the edior of the Interim, the "last conservative paper in Canada" (according to Conrad Black), and he (Paul, not Conrad) was telling me that he and Kathy Shaidle were doing a Ten Things I Don't Care About meme. I thought it was a cute idea and started a list of my own.

Strangely, I fizzled on it.

It's because, well... it's hard to think of stuff you don't really care about, because you don't really think much about things you don't think about...if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I told Jeff that thirty's a lot, especially for someone like me who's known to be a bit highly charged about quite a few things, but I'll have a go. (Some of these are a bit Canadian, so bear with, if you don't live above the 49th.)

Things that don't really bother me:

1. The Vocations Crisis - there isn't one.

2. Canada - see note above re: vocations crisis.

3. Global Warming - warmer winters? longer summers? sounds pretty good to a Canuckistani.

4. Women's Rights - actually I do care about this, it's just that I think we should have fewer of them.

5. Canadian Politics - tough to care about the politics of something that doesn't really exist.

6. The Canadian Catholic Church - as note one above.

7. Liturgical Abuses in the Novus Ordo - Can't corrupt something that is itself a corruption.

8. Genetically Modified Foods - humans have been genetically modifying the food they grow for ten thousand years. Too late to worry about it now.

9. The Sex Abuse Scandal - fags do what fags do; if you put a bunch of yippity-skip nancy-boys in the Church, that's what they will do.

10. The Environment - nature is stronger than us. Oxford says: "Environment, n. Surrounding; surrounding objects, region, or circumstances." sounds like the sort of thing that will be there no matter what.

11. Islam - it's a false religion. Truth always wins...in the end.

12. Racism - it's been with us a long time; not going away soon.

13. the Role of the Laity - pay, pray and obey gives us plenty to do.

14. the Modern Dissolution of the Religious Orders - no point saving a house that's already riddled with termites. The sooner it goes down, the less threat it poses to the neighbourhood. With the anti-nuns: the sooner they die off, the sooner we get their stuff.

15. the Motu Proprio - if it comes before the Parousia, we're ahead, I figure. [HJW: Yayayayayayaaaaayyyyy...which is the only liturgical comment I feel qualified to make]

16. University Dropouts - a sign of mental health if you ask me.

17. Catholics who don't want to move and shake - also disparagingly called 'pew-sitters.' We need more non-activist Catholics. People got enough to think about without obsessing over encyclicals.

18. Ladies who don't want to work/go into politics - Kittens and embroidery, as well as gardening, homeschooling, sewing, pie-making, and watercolour landscape painting are all under-represented in the unpaid labour market.

19. Modern "Art" - the only people who pay for it are corporations and it is only seen in art galleries that only stupid people go to. What's the loss? Beauty is like truth and nature; they're stronger than our stupidity and tend to make comebacks.

20. Gay Rights/Feminism/Demographic Implosion - a problem that is naturally taking care of itself without me having to lift a finger.

21. The Pandas - (or cute endangered species of your choice)- people don't want to save the pandas; they want to keep feeling the Cuteness Thrill and worry they will lose it when the cute animals go away. Plenty of cute furry animals around to trigger the response. Besides, any animal that refuses to reproduce and only eats one kind of food deserves to get voted off the genetic island.

22. The Coming Persecution of the Last of the Faithful Catholics - can't think of an easier way to go to heaven than at the point of a commie rifle. cf. Miguel Pro.

23. Anglicanism - I write a lot about the 'coming Anglican schism'. It almost always makes me giggle.


A blast from the past

I don't know how much of my parents' money went into the Asteroids game at Knott's Berry Farm in the summer of 1980, but it was not enough, by any means.

I'd recommend caution, however. I think it's easy to damage your space bar and direction keys on your keyboard

with this.

I was reminded of it the other day when I was walking, or attempting to walk down a narrow, crowded street in Rome. It suddenly dawned on me what it is like. It's like playing Asteroids.


Two important public service videos

The money isn't the reason I love the monarchy. But it's a nice side benefit.


Go Imperial.


Andrea J. Smith

I have no idea if Andrea is the best teacher of classical realist drawing and painting in the world, not having studied with all the teachers in the world.

But I'm fairly convinced she is the best one for me.

If you live in Rome, or even if you are staying only for a few days, you can study with her too. She gives short little speeded up courses in the sight-size drawing method for people who are only here a short time.

One of the things I admire most about her is her fearlessness.

She drove a 50cc Honda motorbike, named, of course, "Hanibal," over the Alps. Not making it up.

In the last couple of weeks, she's been in France teaching a plein air workshop in landscape painting,

and I'm insanely jealous.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Having surgery.



Art and Tradition

I continue to be surprised (and immensely pleased) to discover just how closely the two movements, the Restorationist movement in the Church and the revival of "Classical Realism" in the art world, are paralleled.

The two movements, in totally separate spheres of human life, came about at the same time, in much the same way and for many of the same reasons. Reverence and God-orientation in liturgy and beauty and orientation towards The Real in art.

The Traddies among us will recognise all this instantly:

...The Atelier Lack was a radical, new kind of art school that attempted to revitalize art education by reintroducing rigorous training in traditional drawing and painting techniques.In the 1970s, as Curator of Paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I had occasion to visit this atelier and to observe the students. Carefully drawing plaster casts and nude models, they appeared to be even more reactionary than the photo realists who were in vogue at the time.


Warhol's [Surprise!] support for this traditional type of academy resulted from the lack of such training in his own education and his prediction that the course of art history would be changed if one thousand students could be taught Old Master drawing and painting techniques.


At this time [the mid-70s]...returning from Florence, I asked the Dean at Hartford if they offered any traditional painting or drawing courses. Informed that indeed there was a life-drawing class every Wednesday afternoon, I soon discovered that it consisted of a nude model that the students were allowed the freedom to draw, unencumbered by any instruction. This practice was typical of most art schools at the time and was akin to teaching music by allowing students to look at a piano once a week. Apparently, no one on the faculty of the art school had been thoroughly versed in traditional drawing skills; hence, no one was qualified to teach them.


I soon realized that there were two camps when it came to art education. The larger group hardly ever thought about it, and when they did, they assumed that young artists all over the country learned traditional painting and drawing skills, then rejected such training, moved to New York, and became "avant-garde." The second group was aware of the fact that such training no longer existed in art schools and considered it to be a good thing, as such training was possibly detrimental, and certainly passé.

In 1988, the fledgling New York Academy of Art applied to the National Endowment for the Arts for a grant, but was turned down. The rejection letter opined that, "such traditional education would stifle creativity in young artists"... Of course, Picasso benefited from intense technical training in his youth at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts, including life drawing and the copying of plaster casts, without his creativity having been stifled indeed, his early and complete mastery of traditional drawing skills is evident throughout his career but a century later, official United States government policy dictated that such traditional education was in fact harmful.


In general, a broad spectrum of older artists seem almost inevitably to include shock, angst, or politics in their works... On the other hand, a growing majority of American artists who today are under 40 years old seem more intent on creating paintings that are visually beautiful, rather than emotionally disturbing.


Rather than needing time to mature and "develop an edge," these young artists are in fact very conscious of what they are doing. I recall another young painter actually poking fun at the realists of my generation for always painting the trash can behind the building and not the beautiful façade.


If we could somehow revive a man who lived in the year 1600, we could still relate to him on a very deep level, as we would both have experienced pleasure and pain, the yearly cycle of the seasons, love and fear, birth and death, the beauty of nature, all of the truly important and the major things that make up fundamentals of life. This is the reason modern man can understand and appreciate the art made in the year 1600, or even 600, and why, in the end, there is no reason contemporary art cannot echo or use the vocabulary of the art of the distant, as well as the recent past. If contemporary critics want to deny artists the right to use the visual vocabulary that evolved in the Renaissance, they should try writing their criticism without the traditional language that evolved around the same time.


Steer this little ship of thine...

It's May 26th, St. Philip's Day.

I've never been much for these rather embarrassing public displays of affection that a lot of Catholics go in for over their favourite devotions. But Philip is different. Pray to Philip Neri and you will be well looked after.

But be careful. He's a dangerous saint to know. You will get the things you need, but in ways you would never in a jillion years have thought of for yourself. He has no qualms whatever about taking your life and holding it upside down and shaking it until all your stuff has fallen out of the pockets. When he rights you again, everything will be better, but different.

Look down from heaven, Holy Father, from the loftiness of that mountain to the lowliness of this valley, from that harbour of quietness and tranquility to this calamitous sea. And now that the darkness of this world hinders no more those benignant eyes of thine from looking clearly into all things, look down and visit, O most diligent keeper, this vineyard which thy right hand planted with so much labour, anxiety, and peril.

To thee then we fly, from thee we seek for aid: to thee we give our whole selves unreservedly. Thee we adopt for our patron and defender: undertake the cause of our salvation, protect thy clients.

To thee we appeal as our leader, rule thine army fighting against the assaults of the devil. To thee, kindest of pilots, we give up the rudder of our lives; steer this little ship of thine, and placed as thou art on high, keep us off all the rocks of evil desires, that with thee for our pilot and our guide we may safely come to the port of eternal bliss. Amen.

When I came to visit Rome the first time, it was all about Philip for me. A friend of mine is a London Oratorian and was here at that time studying and gave me and a friend the tour of the Rome Oratory, Philip's rooms. At that time, I didn't have a camera that was up to taking pictures without a flash, so my photos didn't turn out very well.

But later, some other friends of ours, the Sons of the Holy Redeemer, came to Rome and got the same tour from the same friend and took much better pics.

If you come to Rome, be sure to go say thank you to Philip.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I feel like this

Lie around...eat green beans...nap a bit...

Scratch...but not too energetically...

And watch nature videos.

Got frogs


Art for the Non-Stupid

So, everyone still seems pretty upset about this new JPII statue.

The Romans want to get rid of it:
"We don't want this statue, they have to get rid of it. It looks like a box and it's embarrassing us in front of the tourists," said an elderly woman quoted in Italy's Repubblica daily.

Mayor Gianni Alemano said [Termini train station] was "the best place for the statue, which will welcome and protect everyone".

"Homeless people will sleep in there in the winter: the welcoming sense is guaranteed," a protesting bystander told the Repubblica.

Now that everyone hates it so much the City officials are getting busy pointing fingers and saying, "Not my fault".
Rome’s superintendent for cultural heritage Umberto Broccoli has defended the city’s role in the commissioning process. He said that the scheme was endorsed by the Vatican authorities and the ministry of culture, both of which viewed computer-rendered images and photographs of the work in progress, and followed the project step by step.

Even the usually determinedly earnest CNS has had a bit of a laugh at its expense.

But I've really only got one thing to say.

The artist has a website. It was really easy to find out what his stuff is like.

Seriously, did anyone really think regular, non-stupid, non-trendy people wouldn't hate it?

Just ask the Tat Modern.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I. Am. So. Bored.

I have to just lie here and do nothing and my brain is melting. Everything makes me tired, the four holes in my tummy hurt, and I haven't got any ice cream in the freezer. Two of my Santa Marinella friends just invited me out to dinner at a steak house in Civitavecchia and I had to say no. Gah!

Where's Jeeves with my martini?!

Andrew Cusack has been commiserating on FB:

[Andrew Cusack]
Greetings Hilary


[Andrew Cusack]
Always glad to know you're still alive.

I'm still here
If I'm going to die, I'll stick up a post to let everybody know.

[Andrew Cusack]
Very thoughtful of you.

I'm hungry and I wish someone would come over and bring me groceries

[Andrew Cusack]
If I were a billionaire, I would hire you an Arab servant boy in a fez and baggy, flower trousers.

would you?
I'd love that

[Andrew Cusack]
I would.

He could follow me around on my walks holding an umbrella over my head
and bring me tea in bed in a huge bowl

[Andrew Cusack]
It'd be perfect.

Oh... I need a big bowl

[Andrew Cusack]
Someday I will write a novel in which the world in my head is real.

I think the world inside your head is a lot like mine

[Andrew Cusack]
I suspect it is.



Hey, there's another volcano.

At least with this one, us Anglos have got a shot at pronouncing it.


Che bella cosa...

Italian teenagers blowing them away on American Idol.

What I love is the expression on their faces. These kids know they've got the crowd in their hands... Absolute confidence.

And it's no wonder the Italians have the reputation as chick-magnets... I have a crush on the fat kid already...Seriously, check it out at 1:42.


(And yes, Roman ex-pats, I realise it's O Sole Mio, and that we have often paid good money to street musicians to not play that song within earshot, but it's American Idol, so you'll have to suck it up just this once...)


Monday, May 23, 2011

Long Live the Empire


Update to the update

In case y'all aren't bored enough yet with all this cancer stuff, I'll just say that I just got home and all's OK.

Gemelli docs said the thingywhatsit is a normal result of the surgery. They gave me a quickie ultrasound and said the inflammation in the lymph node had gone back down, gave me a prescription for bigger and better painkillers and anti-inflammatories, and said, "Go home and sleep".

I'll try to be more interesting later.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hilary's Cancer Fund Bleg: Update

Stop! Stop!

It's good! I'm good! Gosh!

I really am completely overwhelmed by the response to my bleg for cancer-cost funds. Just this weekend, I've received just under $1300 Cn, which is about 900 Euros. And I can't thank enough the 16 people, many of whom I know personally but some of whom I've never met face to face, who donated so promptly and so generously. I've got all your email addresses and will be sending notes along as promptly as I can. But you know who y'all are, and... well... just this once, I can't think of a single thing to say...

The money already raised will cover the expenses I have so far incurred and will enable me to pay back some of the people who have helped already, and carry us through for the next while.

And it came just in time. In brief, since it's late, I'll give y'all the lowdown.

I got home from the hospital on Friday at eight or so, as I said, and was doing OK until Saturday night when I started experiencing a very interesting new pain. With surgery behind me, and the healing of the abdominal injury coming along well, energy slowly returning, sitting up and walking getting easier, and sneezes, coughs and laughing getting much less fearsome, the new pain in my leg was not very welcome.

It was achey on and off last night, but not too bad, so we thought we'd wait until Monday to go see the GP in S. Mar on Monday. But this morning, the pain had matured into a fearsome burning from hip to knee, and woke me up this morning with an unpleasant shock. It waxed and waned, but by mid-afternoon it was clear we had to do something right away...

on a Sunday...in Italy...during one of the country's many impromptu train strikes...

Yah... tell me about it. Oh yeah, I mentioned that thing about calling a week ahead for a taxi, right?

So the only thing we could think of was to go down to the little ambulance station at the end of the block where the farmacia lady told us there was a doctor on call. The paramedics there, however, said that there was a risk of thrombosis, and I should go to the pronto soccorso in Civitavecchia's little hospital right away. I wasn't even allowed to walk the 200 yards up the road to go home first. A friend was available to drive us to Civi, but had to leave to look after his very pregnant wife, so we were stuck taking a taxi home from Civi, a cost of about 40 Euros.

The thing I was worried about, however, turned out not to be it. They've got me on this anticoagulant that I've been enjoying complaining about, and I was worried about thrombosis, but they gave me an ultrasound in the Civi hospital and a blood test and there was no sign of any blood clots. Which was a relief since the locus of pain was directly over the femoral artery. They did, however, find an enlarged lymph node and said I should go "soon" to the oncology department at the Gemelli, given everything that is going on.

So, I'm off again to Gemelli Pronto Soccorso tomorrow morning. I won't be taking my computer with me this time, so probably no more updates for a while.

I don't think there is a lot of reason to worry, however, since no one at the Civi hospital looked in any way panicked, and the Big Bad we were worried about turned out not to be happening.

Until last week, I really only had a vague idea that I even had lymph nodes, let alone that they could get inflamed, or hurt in any way. I really have no idea, even after having read a bit about them, what they are for, and I think I've had enough of looking things up on Wikipedia for a while. I'm going to take the Civi doctor's attitude and say that although it's probably not dire, it's just worth going into Gemelli where they have more information, to let them rule out anything threatening.

Then I'm going to go home, and concentrate on getting some practice on the Belvedere Torso.

Thank you all, for prayers and continued help and support.

More soon...



Yep, that about summs it up...

Pat Condell is one of those people with whom I don't always agree (religion, obviously) but I've never heard any of his stuff that didn't say at least something that was absolutely spot on, even about religion.

Except that I'm not really a supporter of "democracy" (whatever that is...), he's got the bead on the Irish problem and "Europe".

I've never claimed to be Irish in the sense of belonging on any way to it as a country, but I'm Irish down to the bottom of my genes, which for practical purposes is probably more important for day-to-day doings. Fightyness, and whatnot. Maybe Pat's right. Maybe the Irish character is the solution to the European problem.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hilary's Cancer Fund Bleg


Further Exciting Adventures in Dealing With Italy.

You may have noticed the new thing on the sidebar...

I'm terribly embarrassed about it, but I've got a good excuse for brazenly begging my loyal readers for money.

I'll explain.

I'm home from the hospital from the first surgery and everything went well. I'm going to be holed up at home for a fair while yet and really can't do much of anything. This is the first time since I was four that I've had any surgery that involved taking anything out, and it's the first time I've ever had anything out that I was still using, so it's been a little nerve wracking. As I said, however, the initial examination of the lymph nodes was encouraging and now we just have to wait for the histological examination of my bits, and for me to get over surgery. Which is presenting challenges, not least financial.

Our little adventure getting to the farmacia today to get the medical stuff is a perfect example of why Italy drives everyone nuts, including the Italians.


In order to be properly discharged from the hospital, you need to have a thing called a Lettera di dimissione, that gives all the details of everything they've done to you in relation to your illness, all the tests, results, procedures, medicines and surgeries. It's a very useful document and a Good Thing, that helps you understand and remember everything they've told you, and all the aftercare instructions and prescriptions. The one thing they can't do, however, is give you a prescription to take to the pharmacy. For that, you have to go see your medico di base, your public system GP. My regular GP in Rome, however, is private, so for things related to the Italian public medical system, I have to go to the doctor in Santa Marinella.

Aye, there's the rub. When did they release me from the hospital, you may well be asking? Why, naturally, at six pm on a Friday. Guess when the Santa Marinella doctors' office isn't open... Go ahead...guess...

I was to be sent home after having one last ultrasound to check how my kidneys were handling all the wear and tear. This was to happen "about 12:30 or 1". At 12:45, they brought in lunch (first meal since Monday night! Woot!). I ate it and waited.

Christopher got off work and came over to the hospital, and then we both waited. To give ourselves something to do, and as per medical instructions, we started taking slow little strolls up and down the hall to get things working again. Still terribly wobbly and weak though, so they were very slow strolls indeed. During one of these, about two pm, the nurse came to walk us to the ultrasound place, which really wasn't going to work. The Gemelli is a HUGE hospital and I could barely make it to the end of the hall, so a wheelchair was found and Chris pushed me. Which was fun.

(At the end of the ultrasound, when we were waiting for the nurse to come escort us back through the labyrinth, Chris popped out for a puff, and I amused myself by spinning around and around in the lobby of the waiting room...no one was looking.)

Ultrasound was the easiest and fastest part of the day, and when we got back, Chris stashed the wheelchair in the room, though he didn't tell me why. And we waited. And then we waited some more. I got dressed, and we packed up all the gear, very...very... slowly.

After an hour or two, a nurse came in carrying a sheaf of papers, and said in rapid-fire Italian...something neither of us caught a word of. After a few carefully managed blank looks from us, the nurse said, "Oh, sorry. I come back. Aspetta..."

She didn't come back.

At five thirty, I decided it was time to go home. I had called a friend who, providentially, had just sent me a note on Facebook offering a lift home from the hospital. (Thanks Samuel. And thanks Italian hospitals for having no rules against electronics... stupid Anglos! Stupid!) I levered myself carefully out of bed and hobbled down the hall to the doctor office and knocked.

"When can I go home?" The nurse, we explained, had not come back with the paperwork.

They looked annoyed, but produced the necessaries and gave us the instructions. I have to change dressings every day for the four holes they poked in my tummy, give myself a daily injection of something that will prevent thrombosis (holy crap! I have to do WHAT?! to prevent WHAT?!!) and a pill to control stomach acid.

But for these, one requires a prescription which you can't get from the doctors in the hospital (of COURSE not! what a silly idea! weird foreigners!). That has to come from your GP. Your public GP, not private. We found out later that they could have given me the drugs in the hospital for free, but of course, they didn't. Go figure.

You have to take the Lettera di dimissione to your public-system GP, get a ricetta bianca and take that to the farmacia. Facilissimo.

Back to the room, called Fabio who would be round to the main entrance in 20 minutes, said fond goodbyes to my nice young roommate (who also had cancer and had been having a dreadful time of it) and her mum who had been terribly nice to me; Chris pinched the wheelchair, loaded me into it, piled the luggage on top and we hightailed it out of there. I was home around eight.

At six thirty-five this morning, the birds were all yelling their heads off, the sea breeze was waving the palms and the sun shone mightily down, doing his best to make the billows smooth and bright, and my first thought was, "I have to give myself an injection."

Next thought: "Sure hope the Santa Marinella doctor's office keeps Saturday hours."

They don't.

My friend and I stood in front of the apartment calling all two of the taxi drivers in town, which is how we discovered that in Santa Marinella taxi drivers do not come when they are summoned. One was in Rome and the other in Civitavecchia. Would we like them to come tomorrow?

(Most small businesses are like that in Italy. They do not exist for the convenience of customers, but to keep oneself and often one's family, employed, so if you want their services, you have either to wait until they're ready or book a week ahead.)

I had just enough juice to get out of bed, put on some clothes and make it down the stairs. The doctor's office is about 3/4 of a mile down the road, and we don't know anyone in town with a car.

Today I learned that I really am sick, weak and unable to do things like walk 3/4 of a mile in the hot sun. After discovering the doctor's office was not going to be open until Monday, we went to the farmacia where I flopped into a chair (thanks again Samuel) and focused on not passing out.

My friend stood at the counter and explained the whole thing to the farmacia ("farm-a-chee-ya") lady. The drugs, she said, are quite expensive and we could get them for nothing if we went to the emergency room in the hospital in Civitavecchia. She also said she didn't know why the Gemelli hadn't given us at least enough to get through the weekend. Neither did we. My friend looked over to me, now shivering and growing increasingly pale, and said that Civi was out of the question.

Without a prescription, the drugs, gauze, sterile bandages, peroxide, goopy brown antiseptic stuff, tape and six doses of the nasty little pre-packaged syringes (I will need 20 in the end) came to... well, all my money. About 70 Euros.

I handed Isobel my wallet with a shrug. At that point, I just wanted to be unconscious. At least I would be lying down. And I no longer cared that I was out of milk.

Through yet another (thanks again Samuel) small miracle, and the S. Mar. ex-pat network, we found a friend of a friend who had rented a car that week to take his seriously pregnant wife to the hospital, who was able to zip out and drive us back home.

This brings me all the way back to the top of this post, to say, I could use a little help.

LifeSite has been incredibly generous, but we live by donations and it's not at all a bottomless well. While I am covered by public health insurance for all the big stuff, one of the problems has been all the little incidental expenses that keep adding in. For the PET, MRI and ultrasound scans, the bulk of the cost was covered, but there were fees that added up to about 200 Euros, and there are going to be more.

Between me, Christopher and other friends, we have run through at least that again in phone cards in the last couple of months. I don't know how it works elsewhere, but in Italy, every call you make costs by the minute and I have been topping up my cell phone about every week by 20 or 30 Euros. It has really drained us making calls around town to find rides, make appointments, and especially to try to reach the Gemelli oncology office (where there seems to be some rule against EVER answering the phone).

At some point our luck is going to run out with rides and I am going to have to shell out for a taxi home from the hospital, which is 60 miles, about 100 Euros. And as we discovered today, now that I'm actually getting treatments, there will be drugs and other medical things from the farmacia that are not covered on The System.

It never seems like much when you're doing it one little thing at a time, but...

So, I've reluctantly put a button to my Paypal account on the sidebar.

A lot of people have said they would love to help. Well, this is a simple way to do so.

Ten or twenty bucks from a few of you who can afford it would really go a long way to making things easier.

Call it an emergency taxi fund.

And thanks.

Thanks to everyone who has sent notes and prayed and helped. I really can't say how much it has all meant to me.



Holy Cow! Thanks guys! In two hours people have sent in enough to cover today's pharmacy expenses. It's a great help, thank you again!


Moan moan moan...

I just had to give myself an injection!

And I have to do it again every day for THREE WEEKS!~!~!


Whose idea was this whole cancer thing anyway?!

(AND, I'm slightly annoyed that all this is happening at my favourite time of the Italy year, when I would normally be stomping happily around the hills above Santa Marinella, buying a new collecting net, collecting interesting bugs, taking inventory of the local wildflowers, noting the location of good blackberry-picking places and planting my balcony garden...)


Friday, May 20, 2011

Sadie Valeri

talks about the concept I've talked about, the difference between drawing brain and talking brain. John Ruskin called it "training the naive eye".

I love Sadie Valeri's still lifes with glasses and bottles and silver things wrapped in wax paper. They're classical realism without being melodramatic or too photograph-ey. She has a few videos of the process which are fascinating, but really needs to post up more. She has a blog too.

If you are in Rome, you can study this method of drawing here. Atelier Canova is named after the great Antonio Canova, the last of the great neo-classical Italian marble sculptors. The studio where we work is the same room he did his drawings in.

There are classical realist ateliers all over now, though the school nearly died out when the Asteroid hit the art world in the 1950s. Look for them here.

Learning to draw according to these ancient principles is something I think should become a standard part of the curriculum...when we've restored Western Civilisation and All Good Things.


They're sending me home today

so I'm attempting to adjust back to life in the outside world (where no one brings you a giant bowl of tea in bed every morning :< boo) by watching kitten videos on YouTube.

I've had a lot of cats throughout my life, and they've all had their own personal food-quirk. I had a cat once who would go nuts over honeydew melon. If you were eating some, you had to eat it fast or she would try to steal the bits off your spoon before you could get it to your mouth.

Winnie likes toast and potato chips, but she won't eat the latter unless you crush them up into little bits.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

I do know such very clever people

This just in:

A friend has just finished an important project as part of his work on his Licentiate in Theology at the Angelicum...
Today I'm beginning to post St. Robert Bellarmine's classic work, De Ecclesia Militante. Despite its importance to the study of ecclesiology, to the best of my knowledge there is no English version available. I will be posting a (very rough) English translation, with the Latin text following in a later post. I hope that by making this text available on the internet, it will prompt other students to rediscover Bellarmine's theology.

Just a while ago, Pope Benedict wrote that the great crisis we face in the Church boils down to one of ecclesiology. Since the Second Vatican Council, we've forgotten what the Church is.

Subsistit in...

De Ecclesia Militante
Chapter One
About the Name of the Church


Hi guys

I'm typing this from my hospital bed. Had surgery last night to remove a bunch of lymph nodes. This will make it more difficult for the cancer to metastasize and they will be able to do a histological examination of them to see if there are any occult or micrometastases that got missed by all the PET scans and whatnot. The doctor came in a few minutes ago and said that the nodes had checked normal on the initial microscopic scan in the operating room, which is a very good sign. It will take a week to ten days to get the pathology report back. Meanwhile, this is the first surgery I've had since having my tonsils out when I was four that they've taken anything out. I didn't even get my wisdom teeth out.

I feel better than I expected though, and even with all the tubes and things slept pretty well, if intermittently. It hurts quite a bit but there are these wonderful new things they've invented: pain killers, that are making things better (if not any easier to type) and I'm not entirely de-tubed yet. And even when I get home, I won't be running any marathons or lifting weights for a while, and I've got a friend coming to stay with me for a bit to help out. So all in all, it's been a good first step and the initial prognosis continues to look good.

Next, if the lymph nodes don't show any signs of cancer cells, I'll be doing chemotherapy next to shrink the tumour prior to conservative surgery. Which, in a weird way, I'm kind of looking forward to. I suppose there are easier ways to be interesting, but meh...I'll be taking the money I was going to spend on getting my hair done and buying a couple of hats instead.

Thank God Italian hospitals don't go of their way to make their patients miserable. In English hospitals, they don't let you have your computer or even a cell phone. Way to increase patient stress, guys, cut them off from their friends and loved ones. Good work there.

But I've been working up an essay on how the Anglo medical world has devolved into exercises in misanthropy, so they make up arbitrary rules to make sure that happens. They hate people and want them to be miserable. Italians like people and want them to be happy so they let you have your stuff with you.

I'll likely be out of commission for a week or more, but, well, it IS cancer, after all so, you know...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Just got the call

Chemo starts tomorrow.

This is a good thing.

Why am I suddenly having trouble breathing?


Just to clarify, we've finally got some specific information out of the people at the Gemelli (really, it's like pulling hen's teeth to try to get them to tell you ANYthing, even to the point of telling you what they're planning on cutting out...) and it's not chemo they're starting with, but a minor surgery called a lymphadenectomy. It's a procedure in which they take out the lymph nodes and send them to be examined to see if there is any occult incursions of the cancer in the lymph system. It's a small surgery, but it's general anesthetic.

So, chemo will happen after that.


One last bit of fun and then I've got to do some stuff

This doesn't look as bad as the last one. They've got rid of that awful screechy woman and that little girlie-man, so maybe it will be fun.

I just want to say one thing about believability.

Women, in case you don't know, don't have a lot of upper body strength and they don't have the same kind of physical endurance as men. That's why there are men's and women's sports teams. And I know from personal experience that fighting with a sword is really, REALLY tiring. So I'm afraid that it sort of bugs me when I see these movies in which women are in there with swords fighting men. Seriously, take it from me who spent many weekends of my early 20s fighting with swords, chicks can only do it for a short while, and there is no way any woman could hold out more than five seconds against an even moderate-sized man with a sword.

I can understand why people (modern people, anyway) think it's cool to have women fighting in movies with swords. But really, it's just kind of dumb.


Thai dragon chicken

I've been buying the same meat every shopping trip lately. Sliced, packaged chicken breast, a meat my brown-rice and homemade yogurt hippie mother always disdained as being hopelessly 1950s housewifey.

I'm trying different things with this base meat. It's great fun, and has the added cachet of feeling to my inner child like an anti-hippie rebellion.

Try this.


one medium yellow pepper
one zucchini
one green apple
a handful of cherry tomatoes
some red onion
one package of chicken breast

Slice the pepper, zucchini, apple (peeled) and onion into strips and cut the tomatoes in half. Start them stirfrying in a pan with a little olive oil. While the veg is cooking, slice the chicken into strips. When the veg is about half done, put in the chicken, coating it with the oil and nice veggie juices.

Add in a few pinches of rubbed basil and dried mint leaves, or a sprig of each from the balcony pot, chopped fine.

Prepare in a bowl

3 or 4 tablespoons of Thai green or red curry paste
about equal quantity of ketchup
2 tbs tomato paste
healthy dollop of honey
1/2 cup of water

stir together vigorously to make a nice paste. It shouldn't be too thick, you want it to mix evenly in the pan.

Pour the mixture over the chicken and veg, and stir. Add a little water if it's too thick. Cover the pan and turn the heat down low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.


Watch out. Thai curry paste is pretty powerful stuff for us whiteys. It will take a bit of practice to get the level of hotness you like.

Tip: if you've made it too hot, when you dish it up, just stir in a couple of spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt.


What don't we understand?

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

When I started becoming interested in the life issues, I made the assumption that all people really needed was to be told the truth. All you have to do, I thought, is point out the obvious thing: where babies come from, and people will change their minds about it.

Of course, eventually I came to see what y'all have already figured out by the time you got finished reading to the bottom of the last sentence.

People already know. That's why it's "the obvious".

What I didn't take into account was human will. People know perfectly well where babies come from. But they want abortion because they've discovered that as long as you have legal abortion, more often than not paid for by the state, you can have as much sex as you want all the time with anyone you want.

This is what feminism has given us, women who behave like men. And abortion so men don't ever have to grow up.

Thanks for making the world a better place, Feminism.

H/T to Ann

Ok, look you people, there are rules

You are not allowed to have numbers in the middle of words.

Sorry, but it's just not on. I don't care how much you've suffered at the hands of the evil whiteys.


Rome tourist trap tip

Ok, that aerial shot at 0:13 of Castel Sant Angelo reminded me of something I meant to warn y'all about.

When you're in Rome and you've walked across the Angel Bridge over the Tiber and you're heading over to meet up with friends in the Borgo for the after-Mass lunch, you will turn left at the end of the bridge and walk past the castle. Before you get to the street, there will be the entrance to what looks like a really lovely park.

You will say to your friend, "Hey, that looks nice. Look at all those nice shady trees and things. Let's walk down that nice park lane instead of walking along the horrible roaring street with all the terrifying traffic. It's bound to have an exit at the other end and let us out back onto the street further down, and closer to where we want to go."


This will not work.

You and your friend will walk along the nice shady lane with the lovely trees and it will be lovely and will go all along to the place you want to go, but you will be CUT OFF. You will see that there is a big moat thing, about 20 feet deep and 50 feet wide, guarded by railings that you're pretty certain someone will yell at you if you climb over. You will walk around and around in circles in this evil, sweet-smelling, fly-trap of a park.

You will waste 30 minutes trying to find the back exit, climbing over railings and walking down steep banks sparsely covered in grass only to find yourself deeper in the park, surrounded by inexplicably happy-looking people with baby prams and sinister-looking smiling, laughing children, none of whom show the slightest sign that they are all in on the wicked plot to make you lost in an inescapable park-vortex while your friends are having lunch without you.

Not that this has ever happened to me. I'm just saying... Stay out of the Castel Sant Angelo park. It wants to eat you.


While we're waiting

here's something good to go to:

Also Rome, with this March in its historic centre, spiritually intends to join the protest in the other capitals around the world for such slaughter of innocents to be terminated once and for all.

The 2011 event’s slogan is “Italy united pro-life”, with Piazza Risorgimento, a few minutes walk from St. Peter’s (and 50 meters away from the underground line A stop Ottaviano) as its rallying point starting at 10.30, for the marchers then to proceed to the nearby St. Peter's Square.

After having prayed the Regina Coeli with and for the Pope, they will march as far as Piazza Navona and the adjacent Senate or the Upper House of Parliament. A detailed programme will be provided by the organisers to all the participants after their registration at the dedicated website http://www.lifeday.it/.

For further information or registration, you can also email: info@lifeday.it.

They STILL haven't called me about chemo

I'm not starting to worry that the cancer will have metastas...mestatst...spread while I've been sitting around waiting for them to get their bureaucratic, socialised-medicine act together.

I'm not sitting around every day with a mental picture of the little cancer tendrils growing and twining around my internal organs and strangling them. I'm not having scary dreams about swallowing insects that grow into huge boiling masses of horrible writhing goopy newts in my intestines. I don't jump out of my skin every time the phone rings.

Not at all...

Saturday, May 14, 2011


So, every day, I look in the mirror, usually first thing in the morning before I've really got my brain on, and think the same thing: I've really got to do something about my hair. You see, I've not had a haircut since last August and though I like having longer hair, the split/dry ends situation has become acute, so much so that I have given up any attempts to use the curling iron. Dry split ends do not hold a curl.

(Boys, stick with me here, it gets less girly in a second.)

I also have the hair thought at random moments throughout the day. It's a kind of habit that indicates Normal Life. Kind of like, "Dang, I've got to get around to paying the electricity bill," and noting that the cat-hair tumbleweeds have become as big as my head and it's probably time to run the dustmop over the floors.

This automatic, unconscious default assumption of Normal Life is, I realise, perfectly sensible and a sign of sanity, but it makes me uncomfortable if for no other reason than for the daily, sometimes hourly shock of remembering, "Oh, wait. I have cancer. Normal Life is suspended."

It goes like this: "Good grief! look at my hair. I really do need to get something done about it, maybe today I'll go down to that hairdresser across from the farmacia...

...oh wait. I will be getting something done about it any day now: chemotherapy."

You might think it strange, but I've been more or less toodling along from day to day pretty much just trying to keep things normal. (Friends who have dealt with my randomly scheduled melt-down crazy-bursts can just shut up right now).

At any given moment, while I could be thinking about having cancer, I'm actually mostly thinking things like "What am I going to write about today?" and "Why doesn't this stupid superglue work on my glasses?" I mean, apart from the times I actually have to go to the hospital to get something done, which have so far been few, and which were now a fairly long time ago, I have mostly been able to not think about it. At least, I don't think about it constantly in a front-brain "OH MY FREAKING GOD I'VE GOT FREAKING CANCER!!!" sort of way.

Except for those moments when I'm looking in the mirror and thinking about my hair and suddenly it comes back to me like a slap in the face with a wet fish. (That is the point, I've discerned, at which I become vulnerable to the previously mentioned attacks of Crazy-Brain.)

That's been the coping paradigm so far, denial interspersed with unevenly distributed attacks of panicked hysteria and screaming. Oh, and the non-doing of housework.

But the other day, things moved forward.

It's one of the bad things about cervical cancer, and one of the reasons it can be such a big killer, that there aren't any symptoms. Which is why there are always these PSA sort of things in doctors' offices urging women to get examined regularly. Cervical cancer doesn't just start malignant. It starts as "displasia," abnormal cells that are fairly easily dealt with. It takes years to develop from displasia to cancer and years more to go through the stages to the point where it's a genuine death-threat from God.

This week I've learned that although cervical cancer is more or less asymptomatic in its early stages, there are two big give-aways: bleeding and pain. Bleeding happens with cancerous tumours (if this is getting too gross for you, go here) because cancer isn't very smart. It has enough genetic information to churn out new cells and structures, but it isn't very good at building things like blood vessels. It tends to build them with thin walls which tend to burst spontaneously. It is kind of like having those spontaneous nose-bleeds you used to get as a kid if you were nerdy, which I was. Not life-threatening unless it goes on for a long time.

Bleeding is probably the most alarming of the issues, as you would imagine, but once it's been explained, and once it's happened a couple of times, you get more or less casual about it.

Pain, however, is harder to ignore. Which I found out on Wednesday afternoon.

When you start getting little stabby/pokey pains where one does not normally experience them, and they come back every few minutes, you tend to think something new is up. As we have discovered, it takes quite a lot of prompting to get me to go to the Pronto Socorso but that really did it.

Of course, your first thought is along the lines of "OH MY FREAKING GOD THE FREAKING CANCER IS GROWING!!!" but when I got to the Gemelli on Thursday morning, the nice (and quite handsome) young doctor told me - without, to his credit, the slightest trace of irony - "This is normal". And gave me a prescription for Paracetomol.

For a moment, there was an instant of almost comic effect: Oh right. I have cancer. And cancer involves pain. Right. I forgot.

But then I remembered that this really isn't all happening to someone else, I'm not a character in a sitcom and I have cancer. And cancer involves pain. This little prescription for 1000 mg tablets of Tylenol, in other words, is just the beginning. From here we move on to bigger and better things.

He told me, "It should take care of it. One in the morning and one in the evening. If the pain persists, come back." He assured me several times that the pain does not mean that the tumour has suddenly woken up and decided to get on with things. It's just normal for cancer to involve pain.

This all means that I've got something new to think about nearly every moment of every day. Here I am, going along thinking my normal thoughts like, "Penny and Leonard really have nothing at all in common," and "I really need to get to Ikea and buy some shelves for all this arty stuff," but these thoughts are hardly allowed to get out of my subconscious before the tumour interrupts every couple of minutes by yelling, "HEY! YOU HAVE CANCER!! and your normal life doesn't count any more."

This is leading to all sorts of related thoughts. Thoughts about how certain things in my life are now coming to a close. Certain paths can no longer be reversed. Some things I'd been hoping for are now really, truly and definitively never going to happen.

Never really been too keen on thinking about the future.


Friday, May 13, 2011


I've started grinding my teeth.

And I hardly remember why.


Well, I'm irritated

I wrote a big heartfelt post last night about an interesting new development in the exciting world that is gynecological cancer, and Blogger chose the exact moment when I clicked "send" to crash their entire system.

So now I'm listening to loud 80s bands.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Little update

I spoke to the Gemelli oncology office today and was told the ethics committee has agreed to let me have the conservative treatment.

This means that I won't be having the Big Surgery, but instead will start with an antipasto and contorno of two courses of chemotherapy, possibly followed by a primi of a third. These will be served while in the hospital so they can monitor for side effects. The idea is to shrink the tumour down to a size where the less invasive, smaller surgery would be appropriate for the secondi.

If the chemo doesn't work, then we have to move on to... other things. But at least the horrifying surgery that I was having trouble accepting has been bumped down to Plan B.

All of this will take a while. There is a wait between courses of chemo, so the body doesn't get overwhelmed, and after it is over, they wait 40 days so my immune system can build itself back up and I can be strong enough for surgery.

So the thing to pray for now, if y'all would be so kind, is that the tumour responds to the chemo. The treatment is still officially experimental, so trials are ongoing. I was told by Prof. Scambia, however, that he believes it will become the standard treatment, replacing radical hysterectomy for early stage cervical cancer. From what I have read about this process, there are often a small number of cases in a given trial who have what is called "pathological complete response" after the chemotherapy. This does not necessarily mean that the cancer is cured, but it is a good thing and has a very positive indication for long-term prognosis. So, we now have something to hope for.

BTW: I've decided to go with scarf for the hair loss. Wigs just strike me as kind of yucky, and with a scarf, it's more or less the equivalent of wearing a T-shirt that says to fellow commuters on trains and buses, "I've got cancer; please give me your seat."

Also, many thanks for the people who continue to pour in their messages of support. John, I got your little St. Therese card in the office today. Also thanks to those who continue to be helpful in practical ways, with phone calls to non-English-speaking hospital people and whatnot.

Oh, and for putting up with me turning into a raving maniac over the last little while. I promise from now on to take my pill before attempting to engage in social activity.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

OK, I see that was a pointless question. Back to the Empire.

One of the reasons I usually root for the Empire, apart from the fact that the Jedi totally WERE SO trying to take over the Senate, was that the Empire has way cooler music.

Seriously, who even remembers the music for Whiney Luke?


Here's a question for y'all

Are there any medical procedures that you would "rather die" than undergo?

I mean, if you are actually being given the choice. Like a doctor says to you, "You have to have X out, or you will die."

What wouldn't you have chopped out and/or off, even if the alternative is death?

Just askin'.

No reason, or anything...


In the spring of 1977

I was eleven years old and visiting my grandparents near Washington DC. I saw the ad on the TV for this new movie coming out that summer. My aunt saw the ad while I was watching it and said, "Boy, that looks like the movie for you."

That was 34 fricken' years ago!


I'd just like to say, that in 1977, we knew what the title of this movie was. It was "Star Wars".

It was not "Episode 4".

It was not "A New Hope".

It was "Star Wars".

And even though I am now old, I would LOVE to play any simulator video game of the tie fighter attack. Even if it means I have to go to San Diego to do it. Seriously.

This one was pretty good too

And quite frankly, Wedge Antilles (yes, I know his surname) is the real unsung hero of the Alliance.

He's the guy who got the first shot at the Death Star II. And Wiki says he's "also notable for being the only Rebel pilot to have survived both Death Stars in combat".

BTW: I need an Imperial Walker.

I really, REALLY do.


Domus mea domus orationis vocabitur

For all that they sometimes drove me up the wall, I really miss the Oratory.

One thing these guys really know how to do is create a Catholic world for you to actually live in.

Latest news:
- There will be a Mass for the Graduation of St Philip's Seminary on Friday, May 13, at 8:00 p.m. in Holy Family Church. A reception will follow in the parish hall.

- The next Evening at the Oratory will be a Musical Oratory in honour of St Philip Neri on Wednesday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Holy Family Church.

- The First Vespers of St Philip Neri will take place on Wednesday, May 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Holy Family Church.

- There will be a sung Latin Mass in honour of St Philip Neri on Thursday, May 26, at 6:00 p.m. in Holy Family Church.

I DEFINITELY don't miss Toronto. And, except for the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, there's not much about Canada that I miss, but I miss the Empire.


Monday, May 09, 2011

"They obviously don't want it..."

What IS it with people in these stories?

Yeah, there's all this amazing treasure, just lying around more or less in plain view. Yeah...just...lying...around...

Amazing that no one in all the presumably hundreds of years it has been sitting here has wanted it. People are funny, huh? Well, sucks to be them. I guess this just means we're the first people ever to come here who know the value of treasure...


Hey guys, here's an alternative...since we're talking about the perfidious Greek gods,




Sunday, May 08, 2011


they're friendly.


VE Day

In your charity, pray for the repose of the souls of my great grandfather, William Doloughan, who served in the Home Guard in WWII and in a mounted regiment in WWI, for my paternal grandfather, Norman White, who served in a tank division in Mesopotamia in WWI and in London in WWII, and for my maternal grandfather, Herbert Edward Burkett who served in the US Air Force and flew missions from England over to France.

Requiescant in pace.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Greeks were wrong about a lot of things

They used to play a lot of cool old films on TV in the afternoons when I was a kid, and whenever I was home sick from school I always made sure to watch as many of them as I could. (It's how I got to watch all the Road movies even though I was born 20 or 30 years after they were made).

One of the series of films that I particularly loved were the ones made in the late 50s and early 60s about the Greek myths. They had a lot of statues coming to life, and skeletons springing up out of the ground and monsters and harpies and all manner of good things. And loads of sword fighting. My two favourites were Jason and the Argonauts and 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

I remember one scene from one of these cool old classics in which someone has to battle the Hydra. You know the schtick, you cut one head off and two more, or seven more, or something, grow back, so you can't win unless you have some kind of magic object or some other clever trick up your sleeve. Or you're a favourite of one of those good-for-nothing Greek gods.

It was supposed to be symbolic in a typically fatalistic Greek, pagan, Kobayashi Maru kind of way. You know, it's the usual, 'everything's hopeless and life sucks because the gods run everything and they hate us, so we lose. Wah'.

I have written before about this attitude in reference to the story of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Iphegenia and Whatsisface. I've said that when the soothsayers tell you you have to sacrifice your daughter so the storms will stop and allow the fleet to sail for Troy, but you know that sacrificing your daughter is a horrible unnatural crime and your wife will probably kill you when you get back (and poor old Cassandra) so your son will be thrown into an impossible connundrum where he has to avenge you but that means killing his mother so the furies will follow him to the end of his life and everything will suck...

The solution is before your eyes: kill. the. soothsayers.

Same with the hydra. It's not rocket science: you kill the bastard.

You keep on chopping off those damn heads until the ----er just lies down and quits. Or better yet, you get some clever Greek to equip you with a stock of grenades made of Greek Fire, and you just lob one straight down one or all of its throats and Kaboombah! Problem solved.

Shee. What's so tough to figure out?


Hey Gen-X, remember free-floating societal anxiety?

Hey, remember when we were in our twenties, in the early 80s [I'm addressing the grown-ups in the class right now...], and we never really knew what the hell was going on?

Remember when we were that age when we relied on radio songs to express what we were worried about? And a bunch of them were about this kind of free-range anxiety we all felt but no one really knew how to pinpoint? And remember when we realised that our parents 60s hippie-songs had all turned into a kind of horrible sick, black, ironic joke and that the joke was on us?

Remember when the world and our lives looked like they were on the edge of some huge change and we all sort of had an idea that everything was going to be different, but no one really thought it was going to be different-good? We were all more or less anticipating it would be something horrible?

Remember when we all thought the future was going to be kind of Blade-Runnery? Remember we all thought that there was going to be a lot more technology in twenty or thirty years, but that the gap between people who got to have it and people who didn't was going to become uncrossable, and the price of all that high-tech flying cars and video phones and stuff was going to be a world that no one could stand to live in?

And remember when we thought that everything was more or less out of our control and even though we all felt like we had been pretty much strapped to an out-of-control freight train, there wasn't anything any real person could do to stop it and none of the people in charge gave a damn?

Remember when we, having been raised in the doom-saying, Soylent-Greeny, Mad-Maxian 60s' and 70s, all thought that we didn't really have much of a future, so there wasn't much point in participating in the life of the world? So we kind of just didn't do very much and sort of thought we'd get to just entertain ourselves until it was all going to end in either of the bang-or-whimper scenarios and it didn't really matter which one?

Remember when we used to debate in the back of the cafeteria when we were supposed to be in English class about whether it was going to be a good thing or a bad thing to survive past our thirties?

Remember when we were kids and our parents and teachers convinced us that "society" was all screwed up and that the 60s had been the Good Time when the Young People had tried to fix everything? Remember how they never said it out loud, but that the obvious conclusion was that they'd failed and that there was now no way to do anything about anything and that really nihilism was the only answer... and an SUV?

Remember how we all thought our parents' generation had gone collectively nuts?

And have you noticed that a lot of those things we were worried about have kind of come true?

Did anyone do anything about any of that? Or did we just give up?

Day after day, all that anxiety I remember from that time reappears. And night after night my heartbeat shows the fear. Ghosts appear in my memory and fade away. I do worry about the implications, especially at night. And I worry about situations.

I know I'll be all right. I'm sure it's just overkill.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Thermopylae V: Flight

What a great week: all kinds of interesting things happened, talked to all sorts of interesting people, made new friends and had a lovely time.

So it's obviously time for another medical crisis.

I appear to be having another occurrence of unmentionable symptoms, so I may have to spend the next day or so in the hospital. This means things will be suspended here maybe for the weekend.

Don't panic. The last time this happened, the actual symptom was easily dealt with and this time I expect they probably won't be complicating my life with a diagnosis of cancer.

While I'm waiting for the laundry to finish doing, (it always seems to happen that I have to go in when I'm completely out of clean underthings and PJs) I'll leave you with the long-promised, second-to-last installment of our exciting first trip to the Pronto Soccorso.

We left our heroes, on March 9th, in the little Columbus Hospital Ginecologia/Oncologia ward...

5. Flight

Early on Thursday morning, following my flight the afternoon before, we came back to the hospital, me feeling terribly sheepish. We got on the 7:06 train and got back to the Columbus at about 8:30 am, and one of the first people we saw was the nice lady doctor we’d seen the dreadful day before. I had been mostly fearing the sort of scowls of disapproval and contempt one might expect at such a shocking display of weakness in an Anglo hospital...people are busy, don't I know, and they haven't got time for all sorts of nonsense...

But this is Italy, as I keep forgetting.

When she saw us, Nice Lady Doctor broke into an obviously relieved smile and said, “You really must not leave the hospital without telling anyone.” She wasn’t mad. She just seemed concerned in a very nice, motherly way.

“You really mustn’t. It’s very important.”

I said I knew.

“I had a panic attack.”

“Ah,” she said, “Ok. I understand.”

“Don’t worry about things. Everything is OK.”

And that really was it.

Italians never will cease surprising me with their kindness.

In my room, all was as I had left it, except that two friends had come, as it turns out probably only a few minutes after I had left, and brought me a bunch of tulips in a glass pitcher. I don't remember when such a simple gift had ever meant so much.

~ * ~ * ~

But on Wednesday afternoon, my brain was having none of it.

At about 2 pm, I was working with all my might to appear not-crazy and shooed Christopher away to go talk on Vatican Radio about the pope's Ash Wednesday Mass.

After he had gone, I sat for a few minutes and the same nice doctor came back. I was to go down one floor for a cardiogram. She gave me instructions where to go, walked me to the end of the hall and pointed to the stairs. Down one floor, turn right, go through the doors that say “Radiologica”. I got to the door to the stairwell and looked back, and the nice doctor smiled and nodded.

In radiology, I found a long corridor with closed doors, all numbered. Only one was open and a small clutch of people, the public, not hospital staff, were standing and all talking at once, as Italians invariably do. I pushed past the knot and stood by the window of the little office where a bleach-blonde receptionist was talking to them.

When they had left, I said my name and said, “EKG?”. I tried to make my brain come up with the Italian for “electro-cardiogram”. Bleachblonde gave me the patented Italian indifferent blank stare that is calculated to send Anglos into an instant rage. “They sent me down here…” I said my name again.

Blank stare, followed by head shake. Then the closer: “No capito”.

I walked out into the hall again and looked up and down. No other doors were open, no other staff in view. It echoed slightly. Then Bleachblonde came out of her office door and beckoned me to a door across the hall. She went in and I heard her say in Italian, “She doesn’t speak Italian.”

A man came out of the office, obviously not a doctor, and said in impatient English, “What can I do for you?”

Did no one here have any idea? I was sent down for an EKG. It was supposed to have been arranged…

Blank look again.

I realised I didn’t remember the name of the doctor, or even the name of the ward I had been on. My mind was growing more and more blank as its speed of playback seemed to increase.

“What is the problem?” he asked, impatience obviously growing.

At that moment, a door in my mind slammed shut.

This was not going to happen. None of this was going to happen. I hereby withdraw all my consent.

“There’s no problem at all,” I said and turned smartly on my heel and marched away, back upstairs, back into the ward. There was no one there. The nurses’ station was empty and the doors locked. No nurses in any of the rooms. No doctor. It had been ten minutes since the place had been bustling.

A small but intense voice in my head started whispering, “hurry up, hurry up, hurryup hurryup hurryup…”

I walked up and down the hall. No one. Everything was quiet. A patient came out of her room looking mildly confused and knocked hopefully on the nurses’ station door. No answer. After a few minutes wait, she went back to her room. A minute later, a nurse in purple scrubs opened the door.


“I was supposed to go have an EKG, but no one there knew anything about it. I don’t know what’s going on.”

“OK. Go back to your room.”

“No, I said I don’t know what’s going on. Where is everyone?”

“Everything’s ok. Go back to your room.”

I went and sat down on the edge of the bed and waited. That was when the monsters, who had been hiding behind that slammed door, came for me. Crowding into my mind were a thousand violent images all moving too fast to see, and a kind of sound like a hundred people screaming. Then another rhythmic sound like a recording of waves on the beach, only speeded up so it sounded like a tray full of dishes being dropped every few seconds. It must have been my heart beat.

I waited, but after fifteen minutes, no one had come. There were no curtains so I turned my back and faced the wall while the sobbing and shaking got going. After a minute, I got up and went into the bathroom and locked the door and leaned on it sitting on the floor. After a while, I got up and washed my face. I went out and tried to find someone. Still completely quiet. No sign of life in the nurses’ office.

I went back out into the hall and walked up and down again, one hand pressed into my face over my mouth to keep from screaming the other arm wrapped around my waist to keep everything from falling out. I found an alcove where there were a few chairs against a wall, a couple of wheelchairs folded up, some medical looking things on shelves and a row of windows looking out toward Big Gemelli.

The thought popped in through the racket in my head, clear as a whisper in a silent room: “I could just jump out.”

As though I were watching someone else, I reached up and gripped the brass handle of the window. It turned and the window levered out of its frame, the top coming down towards me and stopping. I tried the other one. It was the same. It opened about four inches. Not enough room. I looked around. I could throw one of the wheelchairs through it, I thought mildly.

At that moment, a big burly voice came into my head and said, very loudly and clearly, “Go home.”

I was now breathing only sporadically, in short gasps and sobs and the things I was seeing seemed to make no impression. I found I was back in my room and moving fast.

I keyed open the closet door, grabbed my coat and put it on, everything out of the bedside table drawer and into the bags. Books, computer, handbag, consent forms, relic of St. Thomas, scarf. Forget anything and you will have to come back.

I walked fast, gasping, straight down the empty hall, into the stairwell and nearly fell down the stairs, my fingers turning white on the rail. Out into the lobby without looking at the woman at the desk, out the door and across the little park and down the drive. Heading for the train station. Heading away from All That. No plans. Just Away. From. All. That.

Then the Sensible Voice in my head started: “You can’t just go home. You have to tell someone.”

“I don’t have to tell anyone. I can do whatever I damn well please. I can just turn my phone off, I don’t have to talk to anyone.” I didn’t turn my phone off.

I had all the luggage, my handbag, my overnight bag, Chris’s computer, and walked fast without looking up from the sidewalk to the train station. I found a bench on the platform and looked at the time. 3:05 pm. Three hours before, I had been told I had cancer.

One train back to St. Peter’s station, then a fifteen minute wait for the train back to Santa Marinella. I had become blank, stopped shaking, stopped crying. I sat on the blue wire platform bench and stared down at the soft green grass growing between the tracks, thinking nothing at all. The train came and it was still early enough in the day to get a seat. I sat down opposite a semi-somnolent young man with a set of plugs in his ears. Some older men across the aisle talked animatedly about politics.

The sun was low and hot and staring in my face when I got off the train in Santa Marinella, and I worried for a moment that I would see someone I knew, but there were only strangers. I walked home without seeing the sun in my eyes.

My apartment was dark and cool. I dropped the blinds on all the windows and pulled the big iron deadbolt closed on the front door. I went into the bathroom and removed the yards of whatever they’d used to stop the bleeding, screaming, “It’s OK… it’s going to be ok…”

I washed and lay down in my room, closing the door and pulling the covers over my ears and waited for all the noise and horror to stop. For three hours the apartment was silent except for me, and I was grateful to have escaped All That. For a while, the door stayed closed and no other thoughts got in. Eventually, even I was quiet and the cat came and curled up in the crook of my knee and went to sleep for both of us.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

We had a great time

This is Michael's talk at our little blognic yesterday.

We all really did have a wonderful time. The discussion was lively and interesting and covered well the complexities of the relationship between the bloggosphere/new media and the Church. In general, we asked and discussed, how being a blogger and a Catholic influences our lives and the Church. How does this strange and sometimes somewhat scary new method of instant communication and information-retrieval affect us, affect the Church and how can we use it correctly?

The panel discussion went on for nearly an hour and a half, and in the end no one seemed to want to stop.

We had people there from Italy, the US and Canada and had some people there with fairly well-known bloggy profiles.

Many thanks first to Declan and his staff at Scholar's Lounge pub, who were tremendously friendly and gave us a really great space, plenty of room and a fully functioning sound system and wifi connection. (And I'm pleased to report that I've finally found a place in Rome that will give you decent nachos with sour cream... those who have lived in Italy will understand how important this is.)

Second, thanks immensely to Michael Voris, our keynote speaker, to Carol Glatz from CNS, Dorothy Cummings Mclean authoress of the Seraphic blogs, Gregory DiPippo of the New Liturgical Movement for being our panel of experts who facilitated the very wide ranging discussion. Dorothy and Christopher have been a huge help with promoting and organising and general support.

Sorry to everyone who was hoping to follow online, we just couldn't figure out the technology in time.

And sorry also to those who came hoping for polemics and maybe a foodfight. Stuart Reid said he had come expecting a lot of shouting and was surprised at how measured and intelligent all the discussion was.

We'll try to be less charitable next time.


Save the Cardinal!

Pub, that is.

It was named after the Great Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, former cardinal archbishop of Westminster, Council father at Vatican I and the main force behind the effort to define the doctrine of papal infallibility. He was also a great friend to the working man and the poor of London, so much so that he inspired both the admiration and the envy of other churchmen.

Apparently, the owners of the pub across the street from the residence of the Ab. of Westminster are proposing to change its name to "The Windsor Castle".

This is a Bad Thing.

There's a petition that was started, apparently, by the current incumbent to stop this silly and anti-historical plan.

Go here for daily Manning quotes like:

We may have some years still of temptation, and buffeting, and sorrow, and warfare, and of the Cross on earth. These things may be. Storms upon the lake, clouds upon the mountain,—they are our earthly lot. What matter? If we be children of the Resurrection, heaven is ours. And heaven is near; we know not how long or how soon our day may be.

I have a friend who is a big fan of Manning, who says that he loves the irony of a pub named after a churchman who was a great proponent of the Total Abstinence movement. I am told, however, that it was mostly in aid of the many Irish who lived in London at that time, of whom it must be admitted that "it is not unlikely that some of them were unduly attached to spirits".

300 signatures already.


Fr. Ted Colleton: a genuine hero

A lion. A hero.

There are some people who really are "great". I was privileged to have met and spoken with him, and received his encouragement, several times when I worked in Toronto.

Requiescat in pace.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Woo hoo!

I'm famous! (Again.)

Update: fixed link.


This too

and another one...

Oh, I just realised that I've given away the fact that I'm googling my own name...



Monday, May 02, 2011

Vatican blognic livefeed

They're just saying they've totally reworked the Vatican's various websites for news.

It looks like they've done it fairly well. Developed by a private Spanish company.

It's so crazy, it might just work...


(No, for those wondering, I don't "Twit". Ain't gonna. Can't make me.)


Book Bleg

Someone has just brought this book to my attention:

It's on my Amazon wishlist...




Just noticed that country I used to live in is having a general election today.

Oh, I remember Canadian politics...


Vatican blognic livefeed

All I need now is a port in the back of my neck.

I've got the language interpretation headphones on, am texting with someone in London via Skype, sending messages to editors via Messenger, reading the liveblogging updates of about six people who are also at the meeting right now and are posting as we go, responding to text messages from three different people on my phone and posting photos and updates to Facebook.

So... can you guess who's talking now?

All I should say is that I'm glad they gave us some prosecco at the break.

Because he's still talking...


still talking...





Vatican blognic livefeed

Well, they may not have beer, but they've given us prosecco ~ !

Also, just found out that Rocco Palmo and John Thavis have been reading me for years.

Maybe I should be more careful.